City Pickers vs EarthBox: Which One is Better?

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City Pickers and Earthbox grow boxes side by side.

Pre-built planting boxes are an awesome way to grow a fun variety of plants, even if you don’t have much space to work with.

Also, the small scale and helpful design features make these products a perfect way for beginning gardeners to get their feet wet. 

Today we’ll be making a head-to-head comparison of two of the most popular planting boxes out there: City Pickers vs EarthBox. Both manufacturers sent us complimentary product to review and try out for ourselves, and in this post, you’ll learn right along with us how they performed.

In all honesty, both of these planters are well-designed and have plenty of great features to offer. But there are a few key differences that could make one or the other a better choice for your situation.

Without further ado, let’s get started! 

RELATED: Learn more about our favorite self-watering planters to keep your plants healthy! 

City Pickers vs EarthBox: Comparison Table

Table comparing the difference features of the City Pickers vs EarthBox growing systems.

City Pickers Vs EarthBox: Head-To-Head Comparison

Both brands offer several style choices, each of which contains a different combination of pieces. 

In this section, we’ll be comparing the Emsco City Picker Raised Bed to the Original EarthBox Standard Garden Kit.

These are the most popular styles for each brand and share the most common features. 

But don’t worry- you’ll get to learn the details of each style City Pickers and EarthBox has to offer in the next section. 

Emsco Group City Pickers Raised Bed Grow Box

Emsco Group City Pickers Raised Bed Grow Box
  • Measurements: 24 inches long, 20 inches wide and 9 inches tall
  • Growing media capacity: 1.5 cubic feet
  • Water reservoir capacity: 2 gallons
  • Overflow drainage: Yes
  • Color options: Terra Cotta, Sand, Cobalt Blue, Hunter Green, Slate and Brown
  • Organic option available: No
  • Caster rollers included: Yes
  • Multiple size/style options available: Yes
  • BPA-free plastic: Yes
  • Made in USA: Yes

What comes in the box:

A City Pickers kit with grow box, watering tube, caster wheels, cover and instructions.
  • 24 x 20 inch grow box
  • Aeration screen
  • Water tube
  • 4 caster wheels
  • 1 woven, drawstring-closure polypropylene mulch cover

One thing we really like about City Pickers is the BPA-free polyethylene plastic construction. 

Scientific studies show that exposure to BPA, especially in the seedling stage, can harm the plant’s natural antioxidant defense systems. These effects seem to decrease as the plant gets older, though. 

Also, the City Pickers polyethylene resin has been approved by the FDA for growing edible plants, which is good for human health, as well. 

You’ll need to do very little in the way of preparation for getting your City Picker ready for planting.

Unpack your planting box from the shipping container and place the caster wheels in the four corners.

Place your aeration screen into the planting box, following the interior placement markings. One corner of the aeration screen has a rounded indentation; insert the water tube there. Assembly complete!

To fill your box, you’ll need 1.5 cubic feet of growing media and the fertilizer of your choice. Now you’re ready to plant your seeds or seedlings and place with the woven mulch cover. 

Emsco provides a detailed, full-color guide to seedling placement and fertilizer application. 

The number of plants you can grow in your City Picker depends on the varieties you choose. To give you an idea of what you can grow in your City Picker, here are some of Emsco’s planting recommendations: 

  • Up to 3 determine-variety tomato plants
  • 8 pepper plants
  • 12 onion sets
  • 10 bush bean plants

However, resist the urge to pack every inch of your City Picker full of plants. Overcrowding will only result in stunted plant growth and poor harvest. 

Pros

  • Lots of fun color options to pick from
  • Compact shape
  • Sturdy woven mulch cover
  • Affordable
  • BPA-free growing box

Cons

  • Have to supply your own fertilizer and amendments
  • No accessories

Original EarthBox Standard Garden Kit

Original EarthBox Standard Garden Kit
  • Measurements: 29 inches long, 14 inches wide and 11 inches tall
  • Growing media capacity: 2 cubic feet
  • Water reservoir capacity: 3 gallons
  • Overflow drainage: Yes
  • Color options: Terra Cotta, Eggplant, Chocolate Brown and Dark Green
  • Organic option available: Yes
  • Caster rollers included: Standard version available with or without casters, Organic version includes casters
  • Multiple size/style options available: Yes
  • BPA-free plastic: Yes
  • Made in USA: Yes

What comes in the box:

An EarthBox kit, including grow box, watering tube, caster wheels, fertilizer, covers and instructions.
  • 29 x 14 inch grow box
  • Aeration screen
  • Water tube
  • 4 caster wheels
  • 2 reversible, elasticized plastic mulch covers
  • 1 pound 7-7-7 fertilizer
  • 1 pound dolomite soil amendment

The EarthBox was first introduced to home growers in 1994, and it has been the primary name in the small-scale planting box orbit ever since.

It was invented by a commercial farmer named Blake Whisenant, who wanted to give home gardeners another option for growing in small spaces. 

The growing box and the plastic mulch covers are made from food-grade, BPA-free plastic, which is great for both seedlings and people. 

Just like City Pickers, assembling your EarthBox is as easy as inserting the casters, placing the aeration screen, settling the water tube and filling your planting box with soil.

Also like City Pickers, the EarthBox includes detailed planting instructions with helpful illustrations showing several planting configurations. 

Some of the suggested planting quantities include:

  • 2 tomato or zucchini plants
  • 6 pepper or strawberry plants
  • 10 onion sets or turnip plants
  • 16 bush bean or radish plants

Depending on your intended crops, your dolomite and fertilizer application pattern may vary. But it’s still a simple process that a beginner can easily handle.

One thing we really like is EarthBox’s comprehensive Learning Center. They’ve done a fantastic job of providing helpful tips, forums and resources for getting the most out of your EarthBox and growing in general. Definitely worth a visit! 

Pros

  • Large planting area and water reservoir
  • You get all the supplies you need to grow
  • Organic versions available
  • Long history on the market
  • Extensive educational resources on the EarthBox website
  • BPA-free growing box and mulch cover

Cons

  • High Cost

Key Component Differences

These two products have a lot of similarities but let’s look at a couple of differences:

Grow Box Covers

A City Pickers' woven polypropylene cover.

City Pickers uses a woven polypropylene, and it has a strong, fabric-like feel. It also has a drawstring closure that lets you get a snug fit around your grow box.

Two plastic covers for an EarthBox, one white and one black.

EarthBox uses durable agricultural film for their covers, and two coves are included with your kit. The material is thin and very flexible, and the edges are completely elasticized for a secure fit around your EarthBox.

Also, each cover has a black side and a white side. If you use the cover with the black side up, the soil will absorb more sunlight and get warmer. This is ideal for plants that grow best in warm soil, like tomatoes and peppers. If you place the cover on your EarthBox with the white side up, it will reflect more sunlight and help the soil stay cooler.

Caster Wheels

A photo showing the two different sizes of caster wheels for City Pickers vs EarthBox.

As the photo shows, the EarthBox uses caster wheels that are significantly larger. We tested the wheels on both grow boxes on a smooth surface, and they both rolled easily and smoothly.

I set up my boxes on a grass surface, and I was able to roll them both around when I needed to. But it was easier to push and steer the EarthBox. Also, I like that two of the EarthBox wheels have a lock, so your box won’t roll away when you don’t want it to.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer included with EarthBox kit.

Standard EarthBox kits include a bag of fertilizer and dolomite (garden lime), and you can buy an organic version if you’d like. This is a nice all-in-one feature about the EarthBox.

City Pickers does not include and fertilizer or other soil amendments. While that does mean you have more separate supplies to buy, it’s might be point in City Pickers’ favor if you have a fertilizer brand you already know and trust.

Setting Up the City Pickers and EarthBox

Now let’s get these grow boxes set up!

Empty City Pickers and EarthBox ready to be filled with soil and fertilizer.

Here we have the boxes, potting soil and fertilizer. To make the comparison as even possible, I used the same potting soil, dolomite (I had an extra bag on hand) and the same kind of plants: an heirloom pear tomato, parsley and marigolds.

I did have to supply my own fertilizer for the City Pickers, but I chose a formula that’s as close as possible to what EarthBox supplies.

Both boxes have an nearly identical filling process:

  1. Assemble the box with the aeration screen and watering tube
  2. Add soil up to the box lip
  3. Make a trench for fertilizer
  4. Add additional soil to create a mounded surface
  5. Place the cover
  6. Cut openings in cover for plants
  7. Plant your seedlings

Filling up the City Pickers:

A City Pickers filled with soil and a strip of granular fertilizer.
A City Pickers box filled with soil and ready for planting.
A City Pickers box filled with soil and fertilizer with the cover in place.
A City Pickers grow box planted with a tomato plant, parsley and marigolds.

Filling up the EarthBox:

An EarthBox filled with soil and a strip of granular fertilizer.
An EarthBox filled with soil and ready for planting.
EarthBox filled with soil and fertilizer, with the plastic cover in place.
An EarthBox planted with a tomato plant, parsley and marigolds.

Getting each box set up was easy and only took about 10 to 15 minutes. Also, both boxes include detailed instructions with illustrations, so a beginner could definitely handle it with confidence.

City Pickers vs EarthBox: Performance

I set up my boxes side by side, so they have identical sun and weather exposure.

Here they are at one month after planting:

Side by side comparison of City Pickers and EarthBox one month after planting.

They’re both doing pretty well, with the marigolds flowering and the parsley really taking off. The tomato in the City Pickers is also much larger than the month before.

The only exception is the tomato plant in the EarthBox (it’s on the far right of the photo). I’m not sure if this one is going to make it.

And here they are after two months of growth:

Side by side comparison of City Pickers and EarthBox two months after planting.

Wow, that tomato plant in the City Pickers is a beast!

Here’s a closer look at each grow box:

A City Pickers grow box after two months, with a huge tomato plant.
EarthBox after two months of growth with marigolds and parsley.

As you can see, the tomato in the City Pickers is simply monstrous and has taken over. The parsley and the marigolds aren’t thriving as well, but that could just be due to the tomato.

In the EarthBox, the parsley was absolutely beautiful and the marigolds seemed healthier for the most part as well. However, the tomato did end up dying, and the marigold plant on that end of the EarthBox was also struggling by now.

Overall, I’m going to give the win to City Pickers, thanks mainly to that massive tomato plant. But I must say that there were happy plants growing in both boxes.

Additional City Pickers Style Options

Big City Pickers Raised Bed Grow Box

Big City Pickers Raised Bed Grow Box

If you want a little extra growing capacity with self-contained convenience, the Big City Pickers could be the answer. 

Measuring 48 inches long and 20 inches wide, you have roughly double the growing capacity of the original City Pickers Raised Bed. 

And the narrow width can still easily fit in those tight spaces you’re looking to convert into a bountiful garden. 

The extra length calls for extra support, and this planter has 6 caster wheels instead of 4. So your planter stays stable and easy to maneuver around the patio. 

Easy Picker Raised Bed Grow Box

Easy Picker Raised Bed Grow Box

The Easy Picker is essentially the same planter box as the original City Pickers, only raised on 4 sturdy lags and adding a lower storage platform.

Standing 30 inches tall, the Easy Picker elevates your vegetables, fruits, herbs or flowers into easy reach. No more sore knees or back from bending over to tend to your garden!

Also, the Easy Picker is a perfect option to make gardening accessible for people in wheelchairs. 

Emsco made this planter from the same BPA-free polyethylene plastic as the standard City Picker. So you don’t have to worry about UV damage or discoloration over time. 

The Easy Picker is ideal for flat, smooth surfaces, like a deck or patio. But be careful which crops you plant; the extra height is more prone to tipping, especially with top-heavy plants. 

You will have to do some light assembly to get your Easy Picker set up, including attaching the legs and lower platform.

Fortunately, most reviewers say the process is simple and only takes a few minutes. 

City Pickers Spud Tub

City Pickers Spud Tub

If you’ve always wanted to grow your own fresh potatoes but never thought you had the space, think again!

The City Pickers Spud Tub is specially designed to promote the growth of potato plants, right on your deck or patio. 

Multiple small openings up and down the tub’s side promote healthy airflow. And generously-sized lower drainage holes allow excess water to escape easily, so you won’t lose your potato crop to rot. 

The tub itself has a 17.5-gallon capacity, and you should be able to grow at least 2 dozen good-sized potatoes per tub. 


Additional EarthBox Style Options and Compatible Accessories

EarthBox Junior, Standard

EarthBox Junior, Standard

The EarthBox Junior is well suited for growing in very tight spaces or even indoors.

One nice addition to the Junior size is the removable overflow saucer. This can help you avoid a mess if you accidentally over-water, which is especially helpful for indoor growing.

RELATED: If you need some ideas for crops to grow inside, visit our detailed indoor growing guides for mint and kale!

The Junior style measures 23 inches long, 9.5 inches wide and  7.25 inches tall. Your Junior kit also includes:

  • 1 1/2-lb bag of dolomite
  • 1 1/2-lb bag of 7-7-7 fertilizer
  • 2 reversible plastic mulch covers

If you prefer, you can also get the Organic EarthBox Junior version. 

EarthBox Root & Veg Container

EarthBox Root & Veg Container

Thanks to the mere 11 inches in height, the Original EarthBox design is too shallow to accommodate most root vegetables.

And that’s where the Root & Veg Container comes in handy. This planter measures 18 inches square and stands 15 inches tall. It’s the ideal home for:

  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Parsnips
  • Horseradish
  • Rutabaga

Of course, you could also plant one large above-ground plant in here, like a tomato or even a blueberry bush. 

Also available in the Organic option. 

Mobile Stand

Mobile Stand

Elevate your Original EarthBox to an easy-reach height that spares you from having to bend over while caring for your plants.

The outer rim of your EarthBox rests securely on the upper bars, and the main body of the box fits inside the stand’s frame. 

EarthBox made their 28-inch Mobile Stand from stainless steel, so it’s lightweight but still strong and weather-resistant. A 1-year warranty from EarthBox also gives you a little extra peace of mind. 

You’ll have to do some light assembly to put your Mobile Stand together, but all the necessary hardware and tools are included. 

The legs are fairly narrow in diameter, so be sure to place your Mobile Stand on a flat, level surface. 

Automatic Watering System Starter 2-Box Kit

Automatic Watering System Starter 2-Box Kit

Even though the EarthBox’s 3-gallon water reservoir usually lets you skip a day between refills, this automatic watering system keeps your plants hydrated for days a time.

This can be a literal (garden) lifesaver if you have vacation plans over the growing season! 

This automatic watering system attaches to your outdoor spigot and uses a pressure regulator to slowly feed water directly into your EarthBox water tube.

The tubing is 1/4 inch in diameter and 25 feet long, so you’ve got some space to work with even if your EarthBox isn’t right next to your water source. 

NOTE: This kit is for 2 EarthBoxes. 

5-Foot Staking System

5-Foot Staking System

Some plants (tomatoes in particular!) grow tall or have spreading foliage that causes them to become weighed down and vulnerable to tipping or drooping. 

Toppling over isn’t healthy for any plant, and it also places your harvest within easy nibbling range for hungry backyard animals. 

This staking system uses an assortment of poles, connectors, a net and caster wheels to provide support for your trailing or top-heavy crops. 

Besides supporting your plants, this system can also make it easier for you to care for and harvest your garden produce. 

Also available in 3-foot and 7-foot heights. 

Replant Kit

Replant Kit

Your EarthBox needs fertilizing, the ideal mineral balance and mulching every year, but your initial kit only contains supplies for one year. 

Although you could experiment with your own choice of soil amendments and mulch, buying a Replant Kit each year could be a simpler option. 

This Standard Replant Kit supplies all the items you’ll need to get your EarthBox started for a new growing year. 

It includes:

  • 1 lb bag of dolomite
  • 1 lb bag of 7-7-7 fertilizer
  • 2 reversible plastic mulch covers

Replanting kits are also available for the Original Organic EarthBox, the Junior and Junior Organic boxes, and the Root & Veg and Root & Veg Organic boxes. 

EarthBox Mulch Cover Kit

EarthBox Mulch Cover Kit

Plastic mulch covers are an integral part of keeping weeds out of your EarthBox and tailoring your growing conditions to your plants’ needs.

Each cover has both a black and a white side, to either absorb heat and warm the soil (black side) or deflect light and keep the soil cooler (white side). 

Since you have to cut holes in your mulch cover when planting your EarthBox, the covers are a single-use item. This 2-pack of replacement mulch covers lets you enjoy growing in your EarthBox year after year.

Keep in mind that the Replant Kit we just looked at contains 2 mulch covers. However, buying the replacement mulch covers separately is a nice option if you want to try a different brand of fertilizer in your EarthBox or your current mulch covers get damaged. 

Also available for Junior boxes and Root & Veg Containers. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to picking our favorite product in EarthBox vs City Pickers, it’s hard to pick a runaway favorite but I feel that I had a better overall outcome with the City Pickers.

Both of these products are outstanding options that offer great functionality and meet the needs of gardeners in small spaces. 

So you’ve got a winner either way! Now go out and enjoy your new planter box!

We want to know: Which planter box do you like better? Do you have any other questions?

Let us know in the comments!

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